‘This is Williamson County’s coming out party’: Hundreds show up to area’s first official Pride celebration

Williamson County

TAYLOR, Texas (KXAN) — Organizers said more than a thousand people showed up to Taylor’s Pride celebration Saturday.

It was the first one ever for the small, rural central Texas town — and also marks the first for all of Williamson County.

“My husband and I actually had to discuss whether we were going to come today, just because we’ve seen on the news all the bad things that happen at these sort of events,” said Danielle Vermillion, who lives in Hutto.

Taylor Pride organizer Denise Rodgers says many community businesses and neighbors donated to the town's celebration. (KXAN Photo/Tahera Rahman)
Taylor Pride organizer Denise Rodgers says many community businesses and neighbors donated to the town’s celebration. (KXAN Photo/Tahera Rahman)

In the end, the couple thought it was important to be at their neighboring town’s first Pride celebration.

“I’ve got a kid who has played around with trans, and I’ve got another one who’s talked about, you know, enjoying girls, and just being able to have them be who they are and feel comfortable talking to us about that is really important,” she said.

A safe space is the simple idea behind the historic event, which started out as a Facebook support group.

“Many who don’t leave their homes or don’t go out, and that’s just not, just not okay, we needed to change that,” said Denise Rodgers, who first started the group during the pandemic.

Rodgers said it grew to more than 300 people and now, more than 1,000 at their in-person event.

“As soon as they all found each other, it was — there was no stopping it after that,” she laughed.

A group of peaceful protesters also showed up to the event. Rodgers said they planned for them once they saw them mobilizing on social media.

“They made a public post recruiting people to show up with them and once that happened… the community rallied,” she said.

Groups like Weird City Sisters in Austin and Parasol Patrol, based in Denver, offered their help.

  • Parasol Patrol volunteers help to shield kids and attendees of Taylor's inaugural Pride event from protesters against the event June 26, 2021 (KXAN Photo/Tahera Rahman)
  • Parasol Patrol volunteers help to shield kids and attendees of Taylor's inaugural Pride event from protesters against the event June 26, 2021 (KXAN Photo/Tahera Rahman)

“It may sound altruistic, but really it’s kind of selfish in that we wanted to be for these kids what we did not have when we were young in a rural area,” said Parasol Patrol co-founder Pasha Eve.

She said the group doesn’t engage in protesters, they try to drown out the anti-Pride chants with fans and signs with umbrellas.

“We just turn our backs to them and twirl our umbrellas,” Eve said. “It really creates that space between the protesters. It’s literally a shield against hate.”

Vermillion said it’s a great message for her kids.

“How we fight hate with love,” she said.

Rodgers said this is just the beginning; other cities like Round Rock, Cedar Park and Georgetown have already contacted her asking for help organizing for next year. She said they hope to have a county-wide celebration in 2022.

“This is Williamson County’s coming out party, and… it’s just going to keep getting bigger from here,” she said.

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